When most people think of New York, they think of New York City, not waterfalls. However, this incredible states has MANY waterfalls, and some of the best can be found in the Finger Lakes region.
The Fingers Lakes is a beautiful area of Upstate New York. I am lucky enough to have been raised in this area, and as a local I know all the best spots. There are so many falls to explore!
The Finger Lakes are about 4 hours away from both NYC and the Canadian border. The Finger Lakes are made up of 11 lakes, with the 5 largest looking like finger, hence the name. The Finger Lakes were carved out by retreating glaciers over 10,000 years ago. The slow regression of the glaciers resulted in gorgeous lakes, gorges and waterfalls. Today we are left with beautiful sights, and great hiking.
Taughannock Falls in located in Trumansburg, NY, and is about 30 minutes from Ithaca, NY. Taughannock Falls is the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. There are two ways to view this gorgeous waterfall: the approximately 1 mile Gorge Trail which takes you to the base of the waterfall, the the approximately 4 mile Rim Trail (made up of North and South Rim). Both trails are well maintained, you just have to decide how long you want to hike- side note often the Rim Trails are closed during the winter months. If hiking is not your thing, than you can always drive to the overlook. There is a great view of the waterfall from there, and Visitor Center as well.
Taughannock Falls is truly a beautiful sight. Whenever I visit I hike the Gorge Trail to the base of the falls, and then drive to the overlook to get a more panoramic view. My favorite times of the year to visit are in the fall and winter. During the fall you get to glimpse some of the beautiful follages changes. And during the winter you get to see the waterfall attempt to freeze completely over. Though any season is a good season to see this wonderful waterfall.
There is a $7 parking fee. However during the winter and on weekdays, parking is often free.
Buttermilk Falls (Buttermilk Falls State Park)
Buttermilk Falls is located in Ithaca, NY, on Buttermilk Falls State Park. The park has a total of 11 waterfalls, but Buttermilk is the largest and most popular. To loop around most of these waterfalls you can hike the approximately 1.5 miles of the Gorge Trail, and Rim Trail (These two trails make a loop around the waterfalls). If hiking is not your thing, then Buttermilk falls is right by the parking lot, and easy to view.
During the summer months there is also public swimming in the water below Buttermilk falls (see sign at the parking lot entrance about dates and times). Due to all the natural waterways in Ithaca, gorge swimming is very popular. Buttermilk Falls offers one of the few safe and protected natural public swim areas.
There is a $7 parking fee. However during the winter and on weekdays (excluding the summer), parking is often free. Camping is also available at Buttermilk Falls State Park.
Lucifer Falls (Treman State Park)
Twelve waterfalls can be found at Treman State Park, but the best known one is Lucifer Falls. The other well known waterfall is Treman Fall- made famous when Ithaca’s mayor jumped into the water in a suit and tie to raise money for the United Way to help fight hunger. Treman State Park is made up of the Lower and Upper parks. Treman Fall is located in the Lower park, and Lucifer Falls is located in the Upper park. These two parts are connected by various trails. The Gorge Trail ,and Rim Trail can be combined to make an approximately 4.5 mile loop. Like most of the other waterfalls listed, the Rim Trail is more difficult, but still fairly easy. All the trails are well maintained. If hiking is not your thing, than there is parking at both the Upper and Lower park. Each waterfall is any easy walk from the parking lots.
Treman Fall is also open to public swimming during the summer months. There is also a diving board and lifeguards on duty. This is a very popular spot during the summer, where many locals go to cool down. There are public restrooms and grills by each parking spot.
There is a $8 parking fee. And there is also camping options as well.
Ithaca Falls is definitely one of the easiest waterfalls to get to. You can literally drive right past it. As the name implies, this waterfall is located in the heart of Ithaca. Just because it is easy to get to, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful. The waterfall drops approximately 150 ft and is in a gorgeous gorge. Because this waterfall is to easy to get to, I love to see how it changes not just from season to season, but also from day to day.
Swimming is illegal at this site. However, parking is free in a small lot next to the falls, or on one the side streets. As an added bonus, Ithaca Falls is only 0.2 miles away from arguably the best diner in Ithaca: Lincoln Street Diner!
Tinker Falls has gradually been stealing my heart every time I visit. This small, charming waterfall is not on your traditional list of must-see Finger Lakes waterfalls, but definitely worth a visit. Tinker Falls in located in Cortland County, in the Labrador Hollow Unique Area. What makes Tinker Falls worth a visit? You can walk behind the fall itself! This is especially beautiful when the water is frozen over in the winter.
There is a free parking lot across the street from the Tinker Falls entrance. You can reach Tinker Falls by hiking the well maintained, clear 0.2 mile path. You do have to cross a stream in order to actually get behind the falls. There is no bridge across the stream so you do have to figure out your own path… I have occasionally slipped into the shallow water.
If you want more of a challenging hike after the waterfall, keep following the path uphill to a great lookout of the area. This is especially beautiful in the fall. This short 1 mile hike, might appear easy at first – the path is well maintained. However it is VERY steep. You gain 700 ft of elevation in a short distance. The view is definitely worth the effort!
Watkins Glen State Park has 19 waterfalls, and is arguably the most magical of all the state parks in the finger lakes. This small state park is located in Watkins Glen, NY (about 40 minute drive west of Ithaca). There are multiple trails that take you throughout the park and gorges. The most scenic is the gorge trail (which is often closed during the winter). This trail is primarily made up of man made stone paths and bridges. Wandering along this trail you can’t help but feel you are entering Rivendell (LOTR fan here!)
Follow this link to a map of the trails, along with a list of some of the more beautiful sights. The Gorge trail has about 800 stone steps, it about 3 miles if made into a loop, and can get wet and slippery, especially during the Spring. Despite this the gorge trail is still my favorite.
There are a total of three car parks that have a fee of $8. There are also restrooms and gift shop at each car park. Camping is also available. Gorge swimming is illegal, but there is a pools available to swim in, if you need a break from the summer heat.
I hope this has helped you plan your next trip to Upstate New York! Leave any questions or comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!
-Teresa, the Type A Trekker